After getting up, having a shower and brushing your teeth, the next step for a majority of people to do is have a cup of coffee. I myself do not have a very big appetite for coffee however, this ubiquitous product is the second most sought out commodity in world. According to the business insider, on average the world consumes over 500 billion cups of coffee every year. On my journey to uni I could not help but notice a coffee shop within a close distance every five minutes. One of these shops happened to be Starbucks, the largest coffeehouse company in the world.
A lot of Starbucks customers and other coffee consumers seem to prefer to indulge in their morning beverage without a foul-tasting double-shot of social injustice. This apparently fair trade brand claims to support the welfare of coffee farmers in developing countries, as a way to be portrayed as an ethical corporation to its loyal consumers who safely believe that no farmers are being exploited, when in reality these workers are manipulated and underpaid.
For example In Guatemala, coffee pickers have a 100 pound quota in order to get the minimum wage of less than $3day. Workers are forced to do overtime without compensation. Hence some even have to bring their children to help them in the fields in order to pick the daily quota. Because these child workers are not legally employed they are therefore not subject to labor protection. Most coffee pickers like many agricultural workers around the world are not guaranteed their basic labor rights which includes right to organise. Hence, owners of plantations use coercion on vulnerable workers as a way to prevent them from organising unions that leads them to demand workers rights.
Back to Starbucks, in 2006 the Guardian reported that Starbucks had denied Ethiopia one of the world’s largest coffee producers the right to trademark three types of coffee, denying them potential earnings of up to £47m a year. The Ethiopian economy is heavily dependent on the trade of its primary products and coffee being one of them. Coffee generates about 60% of Ethiopia’s total export earnings so the last thing they needed was for Starbucks to intervene with their business plan.
To conclude, Starbucks corporation just keeps on winning according business insider statistics, the company turned a $1.25 billion profit in 2013 , enough to buy every American two Large cups of coffee. Whilst Starbucks and other coffee corporations keep expand and making enormous profits vulnerable coffee pickers are losing out as they continue to be exploited and shunned out in the coffee industry’s sustainability efforts. So the next time any of you coffee lovers are about to purchase coffee think about who you are purchasing it from and whether those who produced it were paid and treated fairly.
Eva Aisha Caley